To Serve Music


Q. What is it that drives you at this point?

A. The experience of making music — really, the joy of making music is what I was put here for, I believe.

And I kind of knew — I knew right away once I’d started to kind of get it right, in my teens — once I’d started to experience the joy of getting a result from practice — that this was my destiny, I suppose.

And I always thank God [I] intuitively knew that music was the most important part of it. It wasn’t what I could get from music, it was what I could give to it.

When you asked me the question ‘What is it like?’ — well, I wish people could experience what it’s like to be really focused on doing something musical and have it work and be in tune and harmony.  And that can only come, I believe, if I am serving music, rather than trying to manipulate it to my ends, you know.

Eric Clapton
August 14, 2004
Transcribed from the DVD “Sessions for Robert J”


Sister Monica Joan’s Books


Catching up on the new season of Call the Midwife, I was captured by Sister Monica Joan’s compulsion to get her books in order. The Nonnatus House moves to a new location; she is fixated on her boxes of hardbound books, her board and brick shelves. And I watch with abounding empathy.  I. get. her.

I snort when she says, “I have put Plato here, next to Mr. Freud, so they can be companions in their ignorance.”

Like Violet, the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey, Sister Monica Joan gets the best lines. The community of Nonnatus House are patient and proprietary as SMJ toggles between dementia and a sound mind.

In a moment full of poignancy, Sister Monica Joan admits, “Sister, I cannot deny that my memory is in need of — — refreshment.”

Fullscreen capture 4242014 61237 PMThis exchange had me talking aloud to the computer screen:

Sister Monica Joan: I am not brought down now!
I am well….and filled with purpose.
Yes, I cheer. Yes! Yes! Yes! Organizing bookshelves is replete with purpose!]

Sister Evangelina: I can see that.
Never been a reader, always a doer.
Books passed me by when I was young
[It’s not too late, I plead with a character on a TV show.
I know I could find a good book for you to read.]

Sister Monica Joan: Oh, books have been my friends!
I do not intend to forget what they have taught me
[No, I nod, we can’t forget. Well, we try hard not to forget.]

Fullscreen capture 4242014 61455 PMSister Monica Joan, I love you.

(I conducted a long and fruitless search for pictures from that scene, and settled on a few screen shots.)

The most economical deal I found ($5.87) on the books (which we—the royal we—must read) is Tales from a Midwife: True Stories of the East End in the 1950s, which binds the three books (992 pages!) by Jennifer Worth about midwifery together. I purchased mine from a UK seller and received it in seven days.

I’m highly interested in Jennifer Worth’s book about end-of-life care.

20 Feet from Stardom

20FeetFromStardom Backup singers are like ghost writers. The invisibles.

20 Feet From Stardom tells the story of some of the legendary backup singers you’ve never heard of. It’s a poignant story, told with bursts of beguiling harmonies, of the different mindset of the backup singer who goes for the blend and the lead singer who basks in individuality. And the near impossibility to move from the back to front and center.

Where did the backup singers come from? Most of them were pastor’s daughters who grew up singing melodies, harmonies, and call-and-response, in church. Music was their oxygen. They didn’t require written music; they could hear the chords in their head and make magical tones singing together.

A few quotes:

Stay cool.
Stay humble.
Stay beautiful.
Do the work.
— Merry Clayton

It’s more than leaning on your talent. You gotta be disciplined. You gotta get up in the morning.
— Tata Vega

Real musicians—there’s a spiritual component to what they do that’s got nothing to do with worldly success. Their music is much more an inner journey. Any other success is just cream on the cake. There’s this idea that you can go on American Idol and suddenly become a star; but you may bypass the spiritual work you have to do to get there. And if you bypass that, our success will be wafer thin.

— Sting

Fun catch: Ashley Cleveland, my walking partner (by me listening to her CDs, we’ve never met) has a cameo appearance at 87:14.

Light, Shadows and Downton Abbey

downton-abbey-season-4-9-3{spoiler alert}

The shadows in the premiere of Season 4 of Downton Abbey are brilliant. Figuratively speaking. As the series opens Downton Abbey is shrouded in darkness with one light on. Repeatedly, key characters are shrouded in black with just one side of the face illumined. Lady Mary. Mrs. Crawley. Mrs. Hughes. Carson. Anna. Molesley.

Lady Mary is numb and unresponsive until, in a conversation with Carson, she crumbles and has a good, cathartic cry. She has been a walking sleeper and now she awakes. The next morning the sun rises and color and light explode onto the screen. Birds sing. Flowers are delivered. Mary wears a lavender dress.

The wisdom of age
Mr. Molesley the Elder: In your game, if you want the best you’ve got to be the best and work at it.
Mrs. Hughes: I wonder if you [Mrs. Crawley] would take this man into your home.
The Dowager, straight out of Deuteronomy: You have a straightforward choice before you. You must choose either death of life.  (While Mary’s choice is obvious, the Dowager’s words also apply to Edith.)

Most poignant: Lord Grantham pontificates, The price of great love is great misery when one of you dies. Softly, Branson replies: I know.

Loss of nobility: Lord Grantham. Remember how decent he was in Season 1? What bugs me is how he cloaks his desire to hold power in paternal concern for Mary. What delights me is how transparent he is to Lady Grantham and the Dowager. The way they lovingly hold him accountable is his salvation.

Love the mercy: Mercy flows through the storyline.
Griggs receives large dollops from Mrs. Huges, Mrs. Crawley, and, finally, from Carson. Moseley can’t see the mercy of Downton keeping him on six months after Matthew’s death. He despairs, but the Dowager shows mercy to him, even Edith, dear Anna, and especially Bates.
Mrs. Hughes sacrifices to help Mrs. Patmore.
Mrs. Patmore’s generous gesture to Daisy.

Love the justice: Nanny West gets her comeuppance. She’s such a minor character that we’ll forget her in a few weeks, but it was s-w-e-e-t to see her go.

Interfering: happy outcomes from the various interferences of the Dowager, Mrs. Hughes, and Bates. Not so good from Rose or from Barrow. It’s such a great quote, but I don’t agree with Violets words: It’s the job of grandmothers to interfere.

Bates and Anna: Will they replace Matthew and Mary as the happily married couple?  Bates had some tender lines: You stayed young. And Why should I be social when I have you?

Strength through service: Lady Mary and Mrs. Crawley were both told that they had strength in them. But they didn’t believe it until it they were of service to someone else. Grief is so inward. Necessarily so. Healing comes through kind service to others.

New phrase: ‘All Sir Garnet’ means everything is as it should be, from the reputation of Sir Garnet Wolseley (1833-1913), Field Marshall in British Army, for efficiency.